Jefferson Bible


Jefferson Bible

The "Jefferson Bible", or "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" as it is formally titled, was Thomas Jefferson's effort to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists. [cite paper
author = Jeremy Kosselak
title = The Exaltation of a Reasonable Deity: Thomas Jefferson’s BIBLE of Christianity
version = (Communicated by: Dr. Patrick Furlong)
publisher = Indiana University South Bend - Department of History
date = November 1998
url = http://www.iusb.edu/~journal/1999/Paper9.html
accessdate = 2007-02-19
] [cite paper
author = R.P. Nettelhorst
title = Notes on the Founding Fathers and the Separation of Church and State
version =
publisher = Quartz Hill School of Theology
date =
url = http://www.theology.edu/journal/volume2/ushistor.htm
accessdate = 2007-02-20
]

Early draft

In an 1803 letter to Joseph Priestley, Jefferson states that he conceived the idea of writing his view of the "Christian System" in a conversation with Dr. Benjamin Rush during 1798–99. He proposes beginning with a review of the morals of the ancient philosophers, moving on to the ethics of the Jews, and concluding with the "principles of a pure deism" taught by Jesus, "omitting the question of his deity." Jefferson explains that he really doesn't have the time, and urges the task on Priestley as the person best equipped to accomplish the task. [http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/jefferson_m_03.html Excerpts from the Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson] Retrieved on March 30, 2007]

Jefferson accomplished a more limited goal in 1804 with “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth,” the predecessor to "Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth". [ [http://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/thomasjefferson.html Unitarian Universalist Historical Society] profile of Jefferson, Retrieved on March 30, 2007] He described it in a letter to John Adams dated 13 October, 1813:

Jefferson frequently expressed discontent with this earlier version, however. "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" represents the fulfillment of his desire to produce a more carefully assembled edition.

Content

Jefferson arranged selected verses from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in chronological order, mingling excerpts from one text to those of another in order to create a single narrative. Thus he begins with Luke 2 and Luke 3, then follows with Mark 1 and Matthew 3. He provides a record of which verses he selected and of the order in which he arranged them in his “Table of the Texts from the Evangelists employed in this Narrative and of the order of their arrangement.”

The Jefferson Bible begins with an account of Jesus’s birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus' resurrection are also absent from the Jefferson Bible. [Erik Reece, [http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2005/Jesus-Without-Miracles1dec05.htm "Jesus Without The Miracles - Thomas Jefferson's Bible and the Gospel of Thomas,"] "Harper's Magazine", v. 311, n. 1867 (Dec. 1, 2005).] The work ends with the words: “Now, in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” These words correspond to the ending of John 19 in the Bible.

Publication history

After completion of the "Life and Morals", about 1820, Jefferson shared it with a number of friends, but he never allowed it to be published during his lifetime.

The most complete form Jefferson produced was inherited by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and was published in 1895 by the National Museum in Washington.

The book was later published as a lithographic reproduction by an act of the United States Congress in 1904. For many years copies were given to new members of Congress. [cite paper
author = Christopher Hitchens
title = What Jefferson Really Thought About Islam
version =
publisher = Slate
date = Jan. 9, 2007
url = http://www.slate.com/id/2157314/
accessdate = 2007-01-24
] The text is now freely available on the Internet since it is in the public domain.

Criticism

In the introduction to the Akashic Books 2004 edition of The Jefferson Bible, Percival Everett describes the work with a somewhat derogatory tone:

Editions in print

* "The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" (2006) Dover Publications paperback: ISBN 0-486-44921-1
* "The Jefferson Bible", (2006) Applewood Books hardcover: ISBN 1-55709-184-6
* "The Jefferson Bible", introduction by Cyrus Adler, (2005) Digireads.com paperback: ISBN 1-4209-2492-3
* "The Jefferson Bible", introduction by Percival Everett, (2004) Akashic Books paperback: ISBN 1-888451-62-9
* "The Jefferson Bible", (2001) Beacon Press hardcover: ISBN 0-8070-7714-3
* "The Jefferson Bible", introduction by M.A. Sotelo, (2004) Promotional Sales Books, LLC paperback
* "Jefferson’s “Bible:” The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth", introduction by Judd W. Patton, (1997) American Book Distributors paperback: ISBN 0-929205-02-2

See also

* Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
* The Age of Reason
* Rationalism

References

External links

* E-text: [http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/JefJesu.html “Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth”] - at University of Virginia Library
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=jEMJCUxCsxcC "Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth] - at Google Book Search
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20030212234400/http://www.monticello.org/resources/interests/religion.html Jefferson’s Religious Beliefs] archived page from Monticello.org
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/jesus/jefferson.html PBS Frontline: Thomas Jefferson and his Bible]
* [http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Annodomini/THEME_15/EN/theme15-4.html Front page image] of Jefferson Bible manuscript
* [http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-beliefs5-2008jul05,0,7730914.story Jefferson Bible reveals Founding Father's view of God, faith] - Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2008


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